In Catholic tradition, we have many daily processes for prayer and other actions that connect us to our faith and remind us of the importance of our spiritual health. Lighting candles is a unique action in that typically it is not used for daily prayer but it could be if one wanted to. The act of lighting the candles is viewed in the Catholic faith as burning an offering and although you can do that at any time in an act of worship, generally speaking most people will only resort to burning offerings when they are looking to pray with a particular amount of intensity. For example, when you are grieving or have something challenging going on in your life in some other way, using the votive candles as an act of worship can help you pray with more intensity and intention during your time of need.Since this tradition is so important, many people will keep a set of candles at home.
We all have particular saints that we pray to more often than others and if you keep a few candles that represent those saints at home for use then you can light them whenever you feel the need. Some of these devotional candles even write prayers on them so that you can have some help and guidance in praying to that particular saint.
In many Catholic churches, there are devotional candles placed before the crucifix or statue of Jesus Christ that may live in that house of worship. Other churches may have statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary or statues of other saints and the candles could be placed in that area instead. It is not often, however, that the church will have candles that are dedicated to any particular saint so if that is what you are looking for then a purchase for the home may be your best option.
The term votive candle actually comes from the Latin word, votum. That word means “vow” in English, so it is fitting that the term would be used for these candles of prayer. When we light these prayer candles, it literally serves as a reminder that we are to uphold the vows that we made to God. The meaning of lighting candles can be anything depending on your station in life, of course, because our vows to God are not linear or of singular focus. it could mean that we need a reminder to keep our faith strong and allow God to lead us in our lives. Also, lighting a candle could mean that we need a reminder to be patient with our spouses or kids, or to be good stewards of the blessings that we have been given in our professional or personal lives. Whatever you are struggling with in the moment that you choose to pray, you can use votive candles to assist you in focusing your prayer on what is the most important for you at that time.
Lighting candles for prayer is also a great way to assist in your prayer for loved ones. When we are feeling concerned for someone we love, we don’t always know the entire story and background of what they are dealing with. Using a candle to assist you in that prayer is simply an act of ministry. It is an action that demonstrates the depth of prayer that you are looking to achieve on behalf of the person for whom you are praying, and it can be a great help in praying with intention especially when you only have partial information. Do not shy away from using votive candles whenever you feel so moved and although most people do not use them daily, there is nothing stopping you from doing so if you feel that it is benefiting your spiritual life and your holy communication through prayer.